After hearing from local residents and more than 23,000 PETA members and supporters, the Highlands County Fair Association in Sebring, Florida, canceled planned Loomis Bros. Circus shows at its fairgrounds! The circus was scheduled to exhibit elephants and tigers from notoriously abusive exhibitor Brian Franzen, who was videotaped recently striking an elephant named Megu in the jaw with a bullhook—a sharp steel-tipped weapon that resembles a fireplace poker. PETA warned local authorities that the circus would violate a city law banning the use of bullhooks, whips, and other weapons on wild animals. We also supported Sebring resident Jamey Binneveld—who was instrumental in getting the weapons ban passed and who met with authorities and the fair association and spoke at the City Council meeting ahead of the scheduled performances. This cancellation is yet another sign that it’s no longer possible for circuses to deny that animals are individuals deserving of respect, whose exploitation doesn’t constitute entertainment.
Last year, the city of Sebring, Florida, passed a law banning the use and display of bullhooks—sharp steel-tipped weapons that resemble a fireplace poker—whips, and similar devices to train or control animals.
It’s impossible to feature these dangerous wild animals without using the prohibited devices. In fact, the circus’s big-cat and elephant exhibitor, Brian Franzen, was recently caught on video striking an elephant named Megu (who is scheduled to perform in Sebring) in the jaw with a bullhook while she was lying down.
An expert reported earlier this year that all the elephants exhibited by Franzen “were taught, and are continuously managed, using archaic, aversive, and painful handling techniques” and that the primary method observed to control the big cats was to yell at them and prod, whip, or goad them. Franzen has also faced enforcement action for striking an elephant named Kosti with a bullhook at least five times about the eyes and ears to “teach” her not to take another elephant’s hay—and he was convicted of cruelty to animals.